This is a bit of a loaded question but either way the answer is absolutely. The Skin Cancer Foundation states that 10% of skin cancers occur on or right around the eyelid, only 3% of our skin’s total surface area. Experts advise a strong pair of shades as a preventative must when it comes to eyelid cancer, but not just any shades (see our guidelines here), and you’d best pair them up with some other UV defence strategies too. Eyelid cancer is treatable and not often life threatening, but can cause permanent loss of vision in the affected eye, scarring, and some really nasty tissue damage, so protecting yourself is important.
Shades that get the job done
You can pick out the most effective UV blocking lenses on the shelves, and you’ll still be exposing your eyelids to cancer causing rays if they don’t fit your face! When the sun is at the midday position, UV rays shine directly down. If your sunglasses are constantly sliding down your nose, or you can feel a constant glare coming down from behind them, then they aren’t doing much good.
A lot of the time we spend outside in sunny weather is around the midday period, but even a short outdoor lunch break, or patio coffee time requires a pair of fitted shades. Don’t forget to look for the CE certified 100% UV protection stamp of approval! Lenses should also be adequate in size. If they’re too small, which some trendier styles are guilty of, then they can let in rays from all directions, including those that reflect off of sand, water or snow. This can really expose your lids to some serious UV rays. The waterline (or inner rim of your eyelids) isn’t really a spot sunscreen can reach, but is super sensitive to sun, so it’s important that your lenses are wisely selected. But don’t worry: this doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank.
Sunglasses: team players
When preventing eyelid cancer, sunglasses are most effective integrated into a UV defence toolkit. That midday downward angle we mentioned before can be completely stopped in its tracks before even coming close to your precious eyelids. You can pull this off with an opaque hat, preferably with a brim of 3 inches (luckily those vintage baseball caps are in style) and prevent more than 50% of UV rays from reaching your eyelids, even parts of your face depending on the brim. A good SPF 30 sunscreen for the face is also a really good way to supplement your sunglasses. Make sure you pick a formula that works for the more sensitive spots around your eyes.
So, once more we ask, do sunglasses help protect your eyelids from skin cancer? Shortest answer is yes, but remember that they absolutely MUST fit your face, and work best when teamed up with a hat and facial sunscreen.
Watch out for sunny lunch hours, and remember to tell your doctor or dermatologist about any eyelid bumps, loss of lashes, chronic eye redness, or weird feelings in your skin because early treatment is effective treatment. And always remember, the same medical pros that you consult about these things are always down to help you assemble the tools you need to protect your skin and stay healthy without sacrificing fun in the sun.